We spent three blissful days in Salida, Colorado in mid-August. Salida is about two hours and forty-five minutes southwest of Denver and sits along the Arkansas River near the base of Mt. Antero, one of Colorado's 54 peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation (known to Coloradans as "14ers"). It's the perfect jumping off point for so many Colorado adventures: white water rafting, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, tubing, and beer sampling. If you visit in the winter, Monarch Ski Area (small and family-friendly) is a short drive for skiing. The best part is that Salida is low-key, friendly, and not at all touristy, which can be hard to find with cute Colorado towns. There are no swanky hotels, but plenty of nice homes to rent right in town (we found one through VRBO that I wouldn't specifically recommend, but there were a lot of great options if you planned a bit farther ahead than we did).
The best part of Salida in the summer is the riverfront area. The Arkansas River runs directly through town and the riverfront has a paved path, a number of little swimming "beaches" for kids (shallow water, a sandy bottom, and a cove without a strong current), tube and life vest rentals, restaurants, and beautiful Riverside Park. We spent two afternoons here splashing, pushing B in the tube (in the shallow area -- and the tube had a mesh bottom so she could stand like the captain of her own tiny boat), tubing and floating down the river ourselves, and just soaking in the sunshine.
We also had an incredible day of mountain biking while my parents watched Blythe. The Monarch Crest Trail is known as one of the top ten mountain bike rides in America, and it conveniently ends a short distance from Elevation Beer Co. Most of the ride is on singletrack, some of which is on the Continental Divide and above 11,000 feet in elevation. You do descend about 6,000 foot (woo!) and for much of the ride you can see 360 degrees of mountain vistas and the spectacular Colorado blue sky. If you ride, it is a must-do (you'll need someone to shuttle you to Monarch Pass to start, or Absolute Bikes in Salida offers a shuttle for a fee). At the end of the ride, you coast down to Elevation Beer Co., which has outdoor seating, a few games for the kiddos, and fantastic craft beer.
Because we rented a house and we have a toddler (who wants to eat out with a toddler?), I can't recommend a ton of restaurants in town, but we did make several stops at the Little Red Hen Bakery in the heart of town. This is a must-visit! Go early on weekend mornings to score a freshly-baked scone (gluten free options are available), and pick up a loaf of bread for the rest of your stay. It was a cozy spot filled with locals and visitors. They even bake some of their bread in an outdoor wood-burning fire. Alpine Park is just a few blocks away and has swings and an awesome playground that includes a climbing wall, so if you have little ones that get up early, you can pick up coffee and a scone and make the bleary-eyed trek to the park for them to burn off some energy.
- Housing: Homeaway and Airbnb (I don't have a specific recommendation other than to say Salida is very walkable if you stay downtown. If you are looking for a secluded spot, there are plenty of homes to rent outside of town.)
- Monarch Crest Trail (mountain biking)
- Climb a nearby 14er (Mt. Antero. Mt. Princeton)
- Tube in the Arkansas (we rented tubes from Surf Salida)
- White water rafting down the Arkansas
- Mt. Princeton Hot Springs
- Numerous other hiking and biking options in the area
- Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings
- Steamplant Event Center hosts concerts and events throughout the year (Sunday jazz is free on the patio during the summer)